President's Report July 2010

It has been about 6 months since the current Linux Australia Council was voted in, and about a month since I became President, following James Turnbull’s resignation. In that time, the Council has been working on implementing the platform that we ran on. We have successfully managed to hold a Council meeting every fortnight (with a very few exceptions), to allow us to get together to organise events and implement the goals of Linux Australia.

There has been the odd murmur that Linux Australia is not doing a good enough job of communicating with the community, and I would have to agree. While we are sending out meeting minutes every fortnight, I think we are lacking a more direct communication as to what the Council and Linux Australia are up to. To that end, I would like to initiate a monthly President's report to try and get the word out as to what we are doing.

Changes to the Council

First of all, on behalf of the Council and the rest of the community, I would like to send a large Thank You to James Turnbull for all the work he did during the first half of the year in his role as president. I would especially like to draw attention to the work that James put into the Linux Australia Membership Survey, results of which we plan to release in the next month. James will be sorely missed, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavours in Portland.

I'd also like to welcome Joshua Hesketh to the Council. Josh is already doing a wonderful job as treasurer, as well as our liaison with the LCA2011 team.

Australian Treasury Department, SBR and Auskey

As many of you may be aware, the Australian Treasury has just released a new project called Standard Business Reporting (SBR). This project aims to standardise reporting to government, with an aim to becoming a centralised point where business can submit forms to government. In essence, it is an API which will allow standard government documents, like a BAS or employment declaration, to be filed electronically. At the moment the ATO, ASIC and various Offices of State Revenue are involved in the project. However, there is a large amount of interest from other departments, like Medicare and Centerlink. Hand-in-hand with this project is another sub-project called AusKey, which is an all-of-government PKI system that is already beginning to replace the existing ECI system used at the ATO to authenticate BAS filing.

A few months ago, I was contacted by Ron Skeoch from Muli Management. Muli have been involved in the Open Source community for a number of years, and support a piece of accounting software targeted at the construction industry. Muli need to have their software support the SBR system, and they were interested in my assistance; firstly helping them write the software to interface with the SBR, but secondly in assisting them create this as a fully fledged open source project that other projects could then use. At this stage, I put my Linux Australia hat on, and indicated that we would like to work together with Muli to help make that happen.

While this process is still at an early stage, we have already submitted a document to Treasury outlining the requirements for the Open Source community to be able to interact with SBR. We also pointed out the current issues with AusKey in relation to being able to file a BAS. The response from Treasury has been very promising, and they are quite eager to work with Linux Australia and Muli to try and aid the Open Source community in any way they can; including potentially even placing the reference clients under an appropriate license, so that we can make use of them.

For purposes of transparency I would like to point out a potential conflict of interest here. Muli Management is a customer of my business and has engaged me to among other things write the code and help create the open source project.

LCA2011

Preparations for linux.conf.au 2011 in Brisbane are well under way. Some members of the Council, along with past LCA organisers and the new LCA team, met for Ghosts in April in Brisbane. This was an extremely valuable experience where past organisers were able to pass on some wisdom, and the current team was able to pass on some of the ideas they have in store for us next year. The meeting was held at the venue itself, where we were able to take a short tour of where the conference will be held as well as some of the surrounding areas. I have a lot of confidence that Shaun and his team are going to put together an excellent conference. The Call for Papers should open shortly, so now is the time to start thinking about the presentation you want to give at the next LCA.

LCA2012 Bid process

We recently announced our request for formal submissions for hosting linux.conf.au 2012. So far we have an official expression of Interest from Ballarat, and I have heard the odd rumour of goings on in Sydney and Canberra. Submissions close on August 15th, just over a month away. That is still plenty of time to put in a bid for the conference. If you think you might have it in you, but need some co-conspirators, then please feel free to send the Council a quick email. We may know of people in your area who are in the same position and can help put you in touch with each other.

Media Sub-Committee

One area in which we have been lacking recently is getting our message about things we care about out effectively to the media. This is in relation to events we are holding, announcements about linux.conf.au and opinions on relevant issues. The idea of a media sub-committee was originally raised at the Face to Face meeting in February although it is not a new idea. There was a press team once upon a time; the mailing list even still exists! I've asked James Purser to put together a team and a framework for it to work in, so that not too great a burden is placed on any one member. If you are interested in helping out with media related activities, whether on twitter or with media organisations directly, please get in touch with James.

Linux Australia Membership Survey

As mentioned above, we recently ran a survey of Linux Australia Members. The survey was aimed at the Australian FOSS community and our aim was to gather information to aid us in making decisions about what Linux Australia is, and the directions that it should take as an organisation. We had an excellent response with 528 submissions, including three people claiming to be Linus Torvalds. The Council is working at the moment on collating all of the results. Our plan is to release all of the anonymised raw data to the community in the next month. It is our hope that the community will help us in spending some time to analyse the data and tell us what they think it means. In due course, the Council will present some analyses of its own.

Events

We recently had two very successful events which were supported by Linux Australia. The first was PyCon AU 2010, this is the first time that this event has been run in Australia and was possible due to the hard work of Tim Ansell, Neil Davenport and Richard Jones. I hear that the event was a tremendous success, and sold out before close of registrations. A few attendees I've talked to were very excited and can't wait for next years conference. The conference is running on a model of the same team running it twice in a row in the same city and a formal request for bids to host PyCon AU 2012-2013 in the next few months.

The other event was the Sydney Education Expo. The Linux Australia stand at this event was organised by Patrick Elliott-Brennan who did a wonderful job in preparing everything required for the stand at the expo. Sridhar Dhanapalan also assisted in his role as Technical Manager at OLPC Australia, who shared the stand with us and provided some sponsorship.

That's all for this month. It feels like we've been fairly busy. Hopefully I'll have just as much to write about next month. See you then!

Regards,
John